FBI: Dearborn Hgts. Man Plotted ISIS Attacks on Church

Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, February 6, 2016

A 21-year-old Dearborn Heights man threatened terror attacks in support of ISIS with targets including police and a Detroit church with up to 6,000 members, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday.

Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, has not been charged with any terrorism crime. In an affidavit filed in a criminal complaint on a weapons and marijuana charge, he’s described as being an ISIS supporter who talked about committing violent acts of terrorism, including shootings and beheadings.

Khalil Abu-Rayyan

Khalil Abu-Rayyan

In his affidavit, FBI Special Agent Alan Southard said that Abu-Rayyan had been investigated by the FBI since May.

“Since May of 2015, the FBI has been conducting an investigation of Khalil Abu-Rayyan regarding increasingly violent threats he has made to others about committing acts of terror and martydom–including brutal acts against police officers, churchgoers and others–on behalf of the foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraqi and Levant.”


The FBI had been tracking Abu-Rayyan through social media, phone conversations, and surveillance. He had two Twitter accounts on which he expressed support for ISIS, the FBI said in the complaint.

According to the affidavit in the complaint, an undercover FBI employee was communicating with Abu-Rayyan. In December, the undercover FBI employee and Abu-Rayyan had “daily conversations” that took place “over the course of several weeks,” said the affidavit.

“During these conversations, Abu-Rayyan consistently expressed support for ISIL and repeatedly expressed his desire to commit a martyrdom operation.”

According to the affidavit, Abu-Rayyan also told the undercover FBI employee: “I tried to shoot up a church one day. I don’t know the name of it, but it’s close to my job. It’s one of the biggest ones in Detroit. Ya, I had it planned out. I bought a bunch of bullets. I practice a lot with it. I practice reloading and unloading. But my dad searched my car one day and he found everything. He found the gun and the bullets and a mask.”

“Abu-Rayyan said he targeted a church because, ‘it’s easy and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus, it would make the news. Everyone would’ve heard. Honestly, I regret not doing it. If I can’t do jihad in the Middle East, I would do my jihad over here.'”

The FBI said a church that has up to 6,000 members and fits the description given by Abu-Ryyan is about half a mile from where he works.

Abu-Ryyan said he didn’t carry out the shooting because a gun he bought in October “only held six shots and he would have to keep on reloading.”

Abu-Ryyan also took photos of himself at gun ranges firing an AK-47-type and AR-15-type rifles.  He “captioned one of the photos, ‘Sawhat hunting,’ ” said the affidavit.

“Sawhat is a term for Iraqis who oppose ISIL,” said the affidavit.


On Jan. 22, he talked about having a large sword or knife in case he gets into a fight.

“Abu-Rayyan also said hearing about shootings and death makes him excited. He continued, ‘I would gladly behead people if I needed to . . . It is my dream to behead someone.”


In one Twitter profile, Abu-Rayyan described himself as Palestinian and Muslim, according to Tweet Tunnel, which captures images of old tweets and Twitter accounts. In another Twitter profile, created Nov. 29, he says in his bio: “Trapped in this dunya,” using an Islamic term for the earthly world.


Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.